Starting six years ago, “a bunch of retired fellas and their wives” put together an accordion and a gutbucket, a harmonica and some vocals, and called it a band.
Thanks to donations collected by the Country Jammers, twice-a-month entertainment at Tri-Community Grange near Newman Lake, the Christmas Fund is $1,000 closer to its goal. Theirs is among the upstart efforts that extend beyond the holiday season to help children and adults through the Christmas Bureau, which distributes books, grocery vouchers and toys to people in need.
The bureau, which begins Thursday, is paid for by donations by newspaper readers. There are no income or residency requirements, although recipients must provide specific forms of ID for adults and children.
“This community is so incredibly generous,” said Ann Marie Byrd, development director at Catholic Charities Spokane, which runs the bureau in coordination with the Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review. “And no one is turned away there. No one.”
The Jammers – they’ve grown to 10 or so members ages 21 (a drummer grandson) to 80 (honky-tonk vocalist) – combine music with social action. They’ve organized food drives and visited nursing homes. In the past, they’ve identified needy families to provide with food, toys and gift cards.
This year they decided to employ the distribution system already in place at the bureau.
“We decided why reinvent the wheel when there is already a wheel that works?” said Bill Fautch, 76, Newman Lake, accordion.
The group keeps a little money in reserve, in case someone’s instrument needs a new part, but most of this year’s take went to the Christmas Fund. The donations come from the few dozen people who show up twice a month at the Grange hall dances.
“They’re very generous. Very, very generous,” said Otis Orchards’ Dolores Lashbrook, 77, who helps handle the band’s publicity and recounted its history.
And not just with the coins and bills they add to the pot. “We just ask them to bring chips, pickles, olives, whatever, so we can have a little snack at 2 o’clock. Then we start dancing again at 2:30.”
Gifts totaling $4,194 have bumped up the Christmas Fund to $69,188.62.
An anonymous donor from Spokane gave $509.
Patricia Macneill, of Spokane Valley, donated $500. Rex and Susan Fuller, of Spokane, gave $500.
An anonymous donor from Spokane Valley gave $250 in memory of her husband of more than 50 years. “Thanks so much for all the hard work,” she wrote.
Dave and Merry Maccini, of Colbert, donated $250. Lyle and Shirley Moore donated $250 in honor of their daughter Carol Ann Moore.
Gary and Sharon Randall, of Colbert, gave $225 in memory of their parents, Pres and Marge Cleveland and Les and Clara Randall.
William and Deborah Pierce, of Spokane, gave $200, as did Bonnie and Bud Nelson, of Spokane, who wrote: “Thank you for providing help to so many people at this most important time of year. Especially the kids.”
Denise Mutschler, of Cheney, donated $150. Thomas and Nancy Nelson, of Colbert, also donated $150.
An anonymous retired newspaper employee from Spokane donated $115.
An anonymous donor from Spokane donated $100 and wrote “Wishing everyone a glorious Christmas. In loving memory of Charles Schmeltzer.”
David and Cathy Williams, of Spokane Valley, sent $100.
Spokane residents giving $100: Joyce Stefanoff; three separate anonymous donors; and John and Dolores Skelton.
Lianne and Fred Inaba, of Pullman, donated $75.
Lynn Olson, of Spokane, gave $50.
Esther Westlund, of Spokane, gave $25, as did an anonymous donor from Spokane.
An anonymous donor sent $20.